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experts say a direct hit on land would have resulted in catastrophic destruction. so what's being done to identify threatening space rocks? and, more important, do we have the means to intercept them before they hit? the answers aren't exactly reassuring. nbc's michelle franzen has this report. >> reporter: shock waves. today crews in the russian town of chelyabinsk cleared a trail of debris, some 50 acres caused by yesterday's fireball. and at a nearby frozen lake, searchers collected possible fragments of the meteor. scientists say it exploded with a force 20 times greater than the hiroshima bomb with the earth's atmosphere acting as a caution. the fireball shattered windows, damaged buildings, and injured more than a thousand people. the biggest bang in more than a century caught scientists by surprise, as the world was focused on a bigger asteroid and
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its close encounter with earth. overnight in northern california, reports of another possible fire ball captured on amateur video. separate incidents scientists say, but with the same message. >> i think that the meteor incident in russia is a wake-up call especially when one considers it arrived at the exact same time, the exact same day as the asteroid fly-by. so i think that we're really becoming very aware that we are in jeopardy from these types of collisions. >> reporter: aware, but how well is the world prepared? nasa budgeted $20 million last year to look for objects that may hit the earth but some scientists say more money should be spent on detection and ways to avoid a possible collision. >> we've gotten very good at finding the big things, the kilometer sized objects. we're working down to smaller objects. but there's many more of the small objects like these than there are of the big ones. >> i'd say the appropriate technology for deflecting a dangerous asteroid could possibly be a nuclear bomb, but
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the key is catching and detecting the objects early. >> reporter: experts say that friday's blast could have killed thousands of people had the meteor landed in the middle of a large city, a reminder they say that even smaller objects threatening earth should be a wake-up call. >> we knew factually we lived in a celestial falling rock zone, but friday taught us, reminded us that we live in a shooting gallery, in fact, we got into a crossfire. >> reporter: the power of the universe on display here on earth. michelle franzen, nbc news, new york. with sadness and curiosity, people in south africa turned to their televisions tonight to watch the young woman who was shot to death allegedly at the hands of famed olympic runner oscar pistorius. two days after the killing, the pistorius family had more to say about that shooting. nbc's michelle kosinski is in south africa again for us tonight. >> reporter: hi, lester. oscar pistorius' family today
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strongly refuted that this was murder, and tonight here a production company decided to air the first segment of a television show his girlfriend had starred in and was excited about. >> you fall in love with being in love with love. just one love everywhere. >> reporter: this is a first look at model reeva steenkamp's first television show. to say she was happy about it doesn't begin to describe it. yet now seems eerie to see and hear someone now gone who was only days ago savoring life. >> i don't have any regrets. i don't have any bitterness. i take home with me so many amazing memories and things that are in here and that are in here that i'll treasure forever. i think the way that you go out is not just your journey in life, but the way that you go out and make your exit so important. if you've made an impact in a positive way or a negative way. >> she was like the mommy. she was our mommy always making sure everyone is okay and she was fun.
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>> reporter: her friends said she had been dating oscar pistorius for several months and was excited about that and about valentine's day. today members of pistorius' family visited him in jail as did lawyers, where he is being closely monitored. his uncle spoke. >> our entire family is devastated. we are in a state of total shock, especially about the tragic death of reeva, who we had all got to know well and cared for over the last few months. oscar as you can imagine is also numb with shock and grief. there is no doubt here there is no substance for the allegations and that the state's own case including its own forensic evidence strongly refutes any possibility of premeditated murder. >> reporter: it has been a shock to many, especially seeing reeva in life on their television screens.
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>> i think it's so sad that she's gone. one minute she's there the next she is gone. >> just always be true to yourself and i'm going to miss you all so much. i love you very, very much. >> reporter: tragic for all involved. pistorius had big plans for his future too. he was continuing to train, was set to launch a foundation for children that he was excited about. now, all this quite possibly has altered the course of his life as well. lester? >> michelle kosinski in south africa. and a fall from grace in this country involving a woman who made history as the first female mayor of san diego. maureen o'connor admits she stole millions to support a decade long gambling addiction that may have led to more than a billion dollars in losses. her story tonight from nbc's mike taibbi. >> reporter: maureen o'connor is 66 now. her health is frail, her fortune gone, her humiliation deep. >> i never meant to hurt people.
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>> reporter: what the former san diego mayor admits she did was to steal millions from the charitable foundation of her late husband robert peterson, the founder of the jack in the box restaurant chain, to help fuel a gambling obsession of mammoth proportions. >> her winnings were over a billion dollars. unfortunately for her, her losses exceeded even that. >> reporter: o'connor cut a deal to avoid jail time for wire fraud, pay back the charity, and fully admit her wrongdoing. but she said a brain tumor that was removed two years ago, long after she had gambled her way to few, if any, assets was the reason for the addiction. >> there's two maureens. maureen number one and maureen number two. maureen number two is the woman that did not know she had the tumor growing in her head. >> reporter: maybe, said one expert. >> anything that damages brain tissue is going to affect judgment. >> reporter: while the numbers are mind-boggling, how much she
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stole, how much she gambled, how much she won, and how much she lost, the truly sad part of the story is the contrast with the woman maureen o'connor was. not just san diego's first female mayor, but from 1986 to '92, truly a people's mayor, a vibrant reformer who had grown up poor, the daughter of a bookie, and who raised a struggling city's best hopes. >> i'd like to be remembered as bringing back a little ethics to the mayor's office and to the city. >> reporter: from those heady days to her claim when the glory days ended. >> my style has been different. it's the old frank sinatra song "i did it my way." >> admirable on its face but now revealing a secret life of illness and criminality and human failing. mike taibbi, nbc news, los angeles. and there is more tonight about the misfortunes of another prominent politician, former congressman jesse jackson jr. of chicago, who is charged with using campaign funds to finance
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an appetite for expensive jewelry, furs, and other luxury items. we'll get that story tonight from nbc's national investigative correspondent michael isikoff. >> reporter: the day after former congressman jesse jackson jr. was charged with misusing campaign funds, the downfall of the once rising political star has shaken his hometown of chicago. >> i find the level of theft on his part stunning. >> you have to learn from your mistakes. that's all. we'll pray for hill. >> reporter: jackson was charged friday with diverting $750,000 in campaign funds for personal benefit, including $43,000 for a gold plated rolex. nearly $19,000 for michael jackson memorabilia. $10,000 for bruce lee items. $5,100 for fur capes and parkas. and $5,000 for a football signed by u.s. presidents. >> using campaign contributions for these kinds of personal
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expenditures is way over the line. you just can't do it. >> reporter: jackson's wife sandra was also charged with income tax evasion in the case. "i offer no excuses for my conduct," jackson said in his statement. "i want to offer my sincerest apologies to my family, my friends, and all of my supporters for my errors in judgment." jackson resigned last november just weeks after easily winning re-election. while he dropped from public view last year and said he was being treated for bipolar disorder, fbi agents were closing in, initially investigating allegations one of his fundraisers offered to raise campaign cash for now convicted illinois governor rod blagojevich in exchange for naming jackson to fill barack obama's senate seat. ♪ today at a rally held by operation push, the group founded by his father, family members stood by jackson. >> we can make it through this period of time. i love my brother. i will stand with him until the end of time.
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>> jackson and his wife are expected to plead guilty in washington next week. he faces up to five years in prison, but his lawyers will likely argue to lower that, taking his medical problems into account. lester? >> michael isikoff, thanks. overseas today a deadly explosion ripped through a crowded marketplace in the city of quetta, pakistan, killing at least 64 people and injuring more than 180. the bombing occurred near a school and killed a number of children. it appears to be the latest in a string of sectarian attacks carried out by sunni militants against the minority shiite community. as pope benedict prepares to say farewell at the end of the month, there is talk of yet another break from church tradition. the church usually observes a 15 to 20-day waiting period following a papal vacancy to give cardinals time to travel to rome, but church officials
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now say the process could be moved up possibly in time for a new pope to be chosen before holy week begins on march 24th. back home, the flu epidemic that has been ravaging much of this country's finally showing some signs of letting up, but experts warn it is far from over. the cdc's latest report says, while the number of patients admitted for flu-like symptoms has been leveling out, the elderly are still being hit hard. when "nbc nightly news" continues on this saturday why more and more women are deciding they need to be armed. we'll meet some of them as we continue our special series on guns in america. and later, a different prescription for healing. take a little music from these guys and call me in the morning.
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consider this. yesterday in just 90 minutes after the president's antigun violence speech in chicago, there were four shootings on the streets of that city. as it struggles with an epidemic of gun violence. which brings us to our week-long special series, "flashpoint guns in america." tonight we look at a growing trend in this country as more and more women turn to guns to protect themselves. nbc's stephanie gosk went to texas and found one woman who believes that owning a gun saved her life.
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>> reporter: everywhere erin goes now she says her gun is on her, after that terrifying night three weeks ago. >> i looked up and he was like this, pointing the gun straight at me and i'm just looking at the end of the gun. >> reporter: three men, one of them armed, broke into erin's house an hour outside of houston. she was alone with her 6-year-old son. out numbered and scared, the young mother had one thought. >> my gun, my gun, my gun. that was it. that was the only thing that was going to save me. >> reporter: erin tricked the intruders into her bedroom where she managed to grab her gun. >> i just turned and i shot. >> reporter: she shot one of them in the stomach. another wrestled her gun away, kneeing her in the eye, but all three fled. erin believes having a gun saved her life. erin did eventually call 911, but she wasn't able to until after the intruders had left. and a lot of women who believe they need guns for self-defense are concerned that help won't get there in time. >> line up your sites. >> reporter: patsy quigley has been training women and writing
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books about self-defense since the '90s after a close friend was raped. >> it was not easy for me to get a publisher for my book, because there were so many women who were against guns. >> reporter: she noticed big changes in women's attitudes toward guns. today the number of women buying them is on the rise. a gallup poll reported that in 2005, 13% of all women owned a gun. that number jumped to 23% in 2011. many, like stacy adams, say they are buying guns to protect themselves. >> there aren't many men i know who aren't bigger and stronger than i am. so even in the best scenario, i'm already at a loss. >> reporter: the number could spike even higher this year, triggered by shootings in aurora, colorado, and newtown, connecticut. >> the increase with women has really been apparent over the last i'd say four to eight weeks. >> reporter: it's a trend that worries those who believe more guns put more people in danger, especially women. >> the evidence is very strong that a gun in the home increases
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the risk for of course a gun accident. the evidence is overwhelming that a gun in the home increases the risk for suicide and it's very strong it increases the risk for femicide. >> reporter: there are moments when guns are good for protection. no one needs to explain that to erin. >> it is extremely terrifying to have someone come in your window. >> reporter: in that moment, she said, a gun was exactly what she needed. stephanie gosk, nbc news, magnolia, texas. when we come back here tonight, a debut you won't want to miss.
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an intriguing proposition tonight about what might be in store for google. the company reportedly plans to start opening retail stores in the united states by the end of the year. the stores, like those of its competitors, apple and microsoft, would let customers get a better feel for its products such as its new tablets and smartphones. a possible hopeful sign for wrestling fans who are grappling with this week's news that the sport will be dropped from the 2020 olympics. a group of prominent american wrestlers is planning to meet with wrestling leaders from a number of countries, including iran, to fight the olympic committee's decision to drop the sport. a close call in the ocean off san diego. lifeguards and specialists from sea world teamed up to rescue a baby dolphin that got itself tangled up in some fishing line. a group of kayakers saw what was going on and contacted authorities who got there just
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in time. this was coming out day for some new arrivals at a seattle zoo. four 3-month-old lion cubs made their public debut at the woodland park zoo after spending months in a maternity ward. it was one of many firsts for the zoo. the lions were the first to be born there since 1991. they were also the first litter for adia, a 3-year-old south african lioness. up next, making a difference with the healing power of music.
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finally tonight, a prescription that's hitting all the right notes for hospitals and their patients. it's a program that puts musicians inside hospital rooms where they administer the powerful healing tonic of a good song. it's enlisted some pretty big names who are making hospital rounds and making a difference. ♪ but i got nothing >> reporter: darius rucker has toured the country many times over as front man for hootie and the blowfish, and now solo country artist, playing some of music's biggest venues. but on this particular concert tour -- ♪ heard you found the -- >> reporter: -- he's playing to his audiences of as few as two. his arenas? hospital rooms. ♪ let her cry, if it eases all our pain ♪ >> almost made me cry. my daughter says, mom, don't cry. we're happy she's getting better
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and this has made the day so much better. ♪ if the sun comes down tomorrow, let it be ♪ >> to see the looks on their faces especially when you play a song they know. they're just so happy. nothing better than that. >> reporter: they don't wear scrubs, but musicians like darius rucker and -- ♪ let me show you how country feels ♪ >> reporter: -- randy hauser are dispensing musical medicine here at nashville's vanderbilt children's hospital. >> i think it's great that they take their time to come and meet the kids. >> reporter: the two superstars are volunteers with musicians on call, a nonprofit organization that enlists local musicians and celebrity performers to play at hospitals across the country. >> we know it helps with pain control, it lowers blood pressure, and certainly emotionally it takes them out of the experience of being in a medical setting for that three or five minutes that a song is played for them. >> reporter: 17-year-old courtney butcher battles a chronic stomach ailment and longs for home.
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one of randy's songs briefly takes her there. ♪ let your hair down, hair down ♪ >> missing my dad. we live in a really small town. we got one red light coming in and one red light coming out, it just reminds me of happier days. ♪ country feel >> reporter: a new dad with a new chart-topping song, things weren't always so good for randy hauser, who understands music's healing power. >> when things weren't so great in my home, music was that thing that i turned to, to distract me or ease the stress out of my life. >> reporter: musicians get back as much as they give. ♪ wrap me mama like a wagon wheel ♪ ♪ rock me, mama, any way you feel ♪ >> reporter: you're there to cheer them up. sometimes do they have the effect of cheering you up? >> oh, absolutely. you never feel bad when you're in there. you see, you know, a kid who's sick and their whole family is in there and you walk in and you
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know you're just helping them a little bit. >> thank you, man. >> musicians on call operates in six major cities. they've got hundreds of volunteer performers and guys who they screen, train and schedule actual for these bedside performances. that's "nbc nightly news" for this saturday. i'm lester holt reporting from new york. i'll see you tomorrow morning on "today" then right back here tomorrow evening. have a good night, everyone. -- captions by vitac --
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no injuries reported on the ferry. the ferry actually continued on to san francisco after the accident. we have a reporter on the way. and we'll bring you more information just as soon as we get it. a treasure island family has suffered an unimaginable loss. tonight a 10-year-old girl is dead the victim of a raging fire. investigators say she became trapped in a second floor bedroom in her home on mariner avenue. take a look at cell phone video of the fire taken by a neighbor at 12:30 this morning. authorities say six people lived in the apartment and five were able to get out but a 10-year-old was in the second
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floor calling for help, and firefighters tried to get to her but couldn't reach her. one firefighter suffered a minor injury after the second story floor gave way. the smoke and flames were overwhelming. firefighters say the death has hit them hard. >> anytime we do have a loss, it's a tragedy. kids seem to hurt more because we're all parents. we all seem to have kids. and sometimes, you know, we all do our best to protect the kids, and it is a tough situation when something like this happens. and we do everything possible and we can't get to make a rescue in time to save somebody. >> yep. >> red cross is helping those displaced. these apartments are managed by catholic charities who say many of those living here were formerly homeless families who had children. they say they will work with the city and counties to get the dozens displaced back into livable units. several cars and a building in pacifica were damaged, it haed
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